On Saturday night, I was driving up the street to house at about two in the morning. Suddenly, the cars in front of me swerved to the right and I quickly slammed my breaks when I noticed there was a woman in the middle of the street. The other cars quickly drove away, but my conscience got the better of me, so I rolled down my window and asked her if she needed help. She started frantically waving a twenty dollar bill in my face and told me she’d give it to me if I would drive her up the road. I started weighing the risk factors in my head. She seemed sober, she was a middle aged female, she had nothing on her but a plastic grocery bag, and she was clearly very distressed. On the other hand, her shorts had pockets, her bag could be concealing a weapon, and she was clearly very distressed.
As I was trying to decide what to do next, she started telling me about how her son was in an emergency situation and because of the music festival that’s in town, a cab would take an hour and a half. I asked her if she had called the police and she said they were on their way to her house. I told her I would call a cab for her, but like she had said, the lines were completely tied up. So I looked at her and decided I couldn’t leave her stuck there when her son was in danger. She came around to the passenger side and I completely panicked and started apologizing profusely for being too scared to let her in my car. She started offering me more money and I told her I didn’t want money and started dialing a different cab company. As I was doing this she started crying and said she would just run home and started running up the street.
I felt absolutely terrible. I sat in my car on the corner of the street wondering what I should do and tried again to see if I could get a hold of a cab. That was unsuccessful so I looked up the non-emergency police line, which was also in vain. I sat in my car a few minutes trying to decide if I should go looking for her, but my overactive imagination starting painting terrifying pictures of her suddenly pulling a weapon on me.
Since that night, I haven’t been able to stop wondering what happened and if everything was okay in the end. I think what troubles me most is that I really wanted to help her, but I was just too scared. Every time I think about it, I’m reminded of a recent incident at a busy mall where a woman’s purse was stolen. As she ran after the thief, screaming for help, all but one of about a hundred people simply watched.
I can’t help but think how we got here. Have we become socially inept? Do we just not care? Or has the world become so scary that we don’t feel safe helping each other anymore? And if any of this is true, what good are we to each other or this world?